The day had come for the beginning of our cruise! Within our 20+ group, we had a mix of those who had been on multiple cruises, and a few who were on their first Disney cruise. I was among those who were on their first cruise ever, with the closest experience I have had to a cruise was taking the overnight ferry from Stockholm, Sweden to Helsinki, Finland. This is also one of those experiences that I wish I had taken advantage of when I was living in Florida, as Disney Cast Members can get on the cruise with a discount. Never the less, this was going to be a new experience, and I was looking forward to seeing if taking more cruises in the future would be something I would like to do.
So our day began with a morning drive from Fort Wilderness toward Port Canaveral, which was within an hour drive time. If you are taking a Disney Cruise and starting with a visit to Disney World, you can look into their options for transportation direct from the hotel to the cruise terminal by way of bus. We did a caravan of cars for our journey over because of the extra stuff for the wedding. Upon arrival to the coastal Florida area, the cruise terminals do have on-site parking, but prices tend to be higher, so you can take advantage of an off-site lot like those found at airports for parking your car for cheaper. The one we parked at was found on Merritt Island, just before you would get to the terminal area in Port Canaveral.
After a short 10-15 minute drive, we were brought to the terminal building for our Disney Cruise. The ship we would be boarding for this journey was the Disney Dream, the third ship of Disney’s four at the time of our sailing (with three more to be launched over the next few years).
Once you go into the building a pass security, you get checked-in for your cruise with those who you are sharing a stateroom with. Our check-in was pretty simple…except I caused a bit of a delay when they checked passports because mine had about nine pages worth of stamps the agent had to look through while everyone else in our group had far fewer. As boarding begins, they choose a Family of the Day who get to board the ship first before they begin with group 1. Once they have to introduction of the Family of the day, they start allowing others to board the ship.
As you are boarding the ship, in true Disney fashion, they make it an experience as two members of the crew are there at the entrance with microphones to introduce families coming onto the ship, and several other Cast Members are there to greet them with applause. When you come on board the first time, you come into the main atrium that has the feel of a grand lobby of a hotel with its decor, certainly a nice introduction to the ship! This is also where visitors can get their first opportunity to have their photo taken with one of the many Disney characters on-board.
While we had a few hours before the boat would actually depart, and a bit of time before we could go into our stateroom, we made our way to Cabanas on Deck 11 for lunch. Each meal that you have at Cabanas is a buffet style meal, with the offerings changing between breakfast and lunch. One of the things I’ve always heard people rave about with cruises is how the food is included, and so it was definitely taken advantage of. What I really admired about Cabanas specifically was that they had outside seating on the back of the ship, which allowed you to enjoy the sea breeze while you ate. Unfortunately I didn’t think to grab any shots of the food, but for lunch it seemed to be the kinds of things you could get at a place like Golden Corral, but of higher quality (pastas, roasted meats, fruits, salads, pizza, a pretty wide variety of items).
As we finished lunch, we went ahead and took our stuff to our staterooms, and as me and my roommates were getting settled in, someone snuck in and covered our door with special decorations for those who were with the wedding group! I had completely forgotten that Chelsea had asked us all about our favorite Disney characters, and that is who was placed in the middle of the life saver ring, and the name tags featured where we met one of both members of the couple. Chelsea really outdid herself putting these things together for the wedding festivities! I enjoyed them so much that they found their way to my refrigerator back home in Washington.
Once our stuff was put away, there was still some time before the boat left for us to explore the boat, so several of us made our way to the adults-only area of the boat. We made a visit to the bar called Currents, which is where I would discover my favorite drink of the cruise, the Banana Caribe, which was Myer’s Dark Rum blended with pinã colada and bananas. It was delightful! From currents, we went to the front end of the adults only area where they had some lounge chairs and a small pool for sitting in. While there was a bit of a breeze, the temperature was still excellent for enjoying a dip of the feet in the water.
As the time came for the boat to depart, Disney Cruises are well known for their Sailing Away Deck Party, where guests onboard can enjoy a show featuring some of the classic characters including Donald Duck, Goofy, Pluto, Minnie Mouse, and of course Mickey Mouse as well. It’s during this party that the ship begins to move away from the dock and the signature horn of Disney Cruises sound off with a melody from one of their films. For ours, it was part of “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” from Cinderella.
As the party goes from stage show to a dance party everyone can join on the deck, the ship started to get further into sea, heading for the Bahamas for our journey.
After a bit, we made our way over to the Walt Disney Theater for the first show that we would see on our cruise, “The Golden Mickeys”. The show features a number of musical numbers from various Disney movies, and is placed into a format of an Awards show where the stage manager finds herself becoming part of the show, even though she didn’t think she could. It was a lot of fun, and I really enjoyed some of the songs that were included in it, including a nod to Mulan and the song “Make a Man Out of You”.
Our first dinner of the cruise was in the Animator’s Pallet restaurant, which pays tribute to Disney’s Animation for its cartoons and movies. In true Disney fashion, there are many little touches to the themeing, including the butter knives looking like a paint brush, and the chairs being designed like Mickey’s shorts. During the meal, the screens that would show different drawings from Disney animations would become part of a Disney Cruise version of Turtle Talk with Crush. Much like the attraction at EPCOT, Crush will interact with diners throughout the restaurant. My choice for the evening was the filet, which was excellent! As was the case with lunch, it was a good quality meal!
And with that, many people made their way to bed a bit earlier since the wedding would be held around noon the next day, and several people were involved with preparing for it, or for the wedding itself. It was neat to be able to look out and see one of the other ships that departed from Port Canaveral the same day as we did, and knowing that we were just sailing along in the Atlantic.
While the wedding was the next day, we would arrive to the first port of call early enough for a little bit of exploring.
Bonus: The Bride's Point of View for this experience:
Day Three -
Part One: Embarkation Part Two: The Legal Ceremony Part Three: Come Sail Away
To follow Chelsea's full first-hand account of her wedding experience, along with all the planning details and helpful information for planning your own Disney Dream Wedding, check out her Twenty Something in Orlando Disney Dream Wedding Series!
See More of 2020 Disney Dream Wedding & More:
1: Universal Studios & Florida Strawberry Festival / 2: Hoop-Dee-Doo Ever After / 3: The Dream Begins /
4: A Morning in Nassau / 5: The Wedding / 6: Pirates Night & Fireworks at Sea /
7: Castaway Cay and the End of the Dream / 8: A Little More Disney Magic With New Attractions